Publisher: Ubisoft. Format: PS2. Price: £39.99. Family friendly? Unlike the films, this game is for the over 16s only.

JUST like the films it was based upon, the first Rocky game was something of a sleeper hit. And, just as a sequel followed Sylvester Stallone's Oscar-winning original film, so the successful game has sired a follow-up.

But the first Rocky game spanned all five movies and featured all the main players, so where does that leave Rocky Legends? Back to the future, that's where.

The new game allows fans of the films to re-write history by starting afresh with Rocky and his pugilistic antagonists - Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and Ivan Drago. Along the way the game attempts to fill in the back story of each major character and some of the incidental characters who appeared in the movies.

If you elect to play as the Master of Disaster Apollo Creed, you learn how he met his trainer Tony (in the boxing ring) and how he made it to the top of the heavyweight tree with an incredible record of no defeats and just one draw (something you'll have to emulate). Likewise, Clubber Lang starts his climb up the boxing rankings by learning how to fight in the ring while serving time for robbery in the slammer.

Rocky's background is a little more straightforward. We meet the Italian Stallone when he is a debt collector for a local Philadelphia hood and making cash on the side by betting on himself to win bare-knuckle street fights. He joins the gym run by Mickey Goldblum and scrapes a living before landing his "million-to-one" shot at the big time when Creed picks him to challenge for the title on Thanksgiving Day, 1976.

We first meet Ivan Drago in a Soviet military training camp and follow him to the high-tech facility where the Communists attempt to make him the ultimate fighting machine. His early fights are held in strange venues like the deck of a ship and inside a tank building factory.

His penultimate boxing match results in the death of Apollo Creed, leading to the Christmas Eve match with champion Rocky Balboa.

Tommy Gunn isn't a playable character in career mode. A strange decision, given that all the others are available.

Maybe it has something to do with the real-life tragedy that befell Tommy Morrison, the boxer who played the Gunn role in Rocky V. After Stallone backed him, Morrison landed a shot at the big time and eventually won a version of the heavyweight crown. Unfortunately the fame and adulation that goes with the title went to the boxer's head. He not only lost the title to Lennox Lewis but a few months later tested HIV positive. For a while he used his fast-fading fame to campaign for greater AIDs awareness but has since faded into obscurity.

Each of the playable characters must have 25 fights before they reach the top of the tree so there's plenty of variety in the career mode. The boxing itself is a simpler version of the high/low punch method used in the first game. Putting together a series of combinations necessitates hitting the keys very quickly and I sometimes adopted the "hold pad on floor and use both hands" method more usually required for those Olympic simulations where your character gets to run as fast as you can bash the buttons.

The animation is excellent - some of the punches really do look like bone crunchers - and the sound effects are suitably OTT. When your opponent is on the ropes, the game introduces Bill Conti's "Going The Distance" track from the first film.

The voice acting in the cut scenes is generally fine, although it's obvious Ubisoft couldn't afford the likes of Stallone, Carl Weathers, and Mr T to lend their own vocal talents to Rocky Legends.

Successful fights unlock extra goodies such as trailers for the movies and even a "chase the chicken" mini game if you are particularly adept at training. For gamers who find training tedious, there is an auto train option to boost your strength/speed/stamina in double quick time.

Two players can have a match-up but there's no online play so virtual challenges are out of the question, unfortunately.

As you most probably have gathered by now, I enjoyed Rocky Legends. It probably helps that the first movie is one of my all-time favourites but even casual film-goers will find plenty to enjoy in this game.


THE Northern Echo has teamed up with our friends at CHIPs, the region's leading independent video games store, with branches across the North-East and North Yorkshire including Darlington, Bishop Auckland, Stockton, Middlesbrough and Northallerton, to offer you some great prizes.

To mark the release of Pandora Tomorrow - a great action adventure in the best traditions of Metal Gear - we have a pair of special forces-style monoculars to give away, plus a copy of the game. There are also eight runners-up prizes of monoculars alone. To win, answer this easy question: What kind of game is Pandora Tomorrow?

Mark your entry Pandora Comp. You must be over 12 to enter.

We also have two copies of Spiro Fusion - the latest platform adventure for Spiro the Dragon - to give away. Winners will also receive a special T-shirt. Just tell us what kind of creature Spiro is. Mark your entry Spiro Comp. Answers by October 30 to Burton's Byte, Priestgate, Darlington, County Durham DL1 1NF.